Have you ever heard of the “bless their heart” rule? It’s the idea that you can say anything about a person as long as you finish by saying, “bless their heart” (example: “She was just about the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen…Bless her heart”). Now this is obviously just a joke and I would hope that no one would ever use this rule. But what if I told you that there was a “rule” that many use every day to excuse something hurtful that they’ve said?
“I’m just kidding.”
I’ve used these three words many times in the past after having said something that may have been hurtful. In fact, most of the time I really was joking when I said it. Does that make it something we should say though?
In Proverbs 26:18-19 we read, “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows and death, so is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘Was I not joking?’”
I realize that this passage is talking about deceit, but I think it has some serious application for us today. Too frequently we allow harsh or hurtful words to come out of our mouths and try to cover them up with a quick, “I’m just kidding.” It’s as if we believe those three words serve as a magical eraser that go back and take away any hurt that our comments may have inflicted. They can’t.
Humor can make for some great memories. If you know me, you know that I love to joke around and goof off. I do believe God gave us humor for a reason. I just don’t believe that reason was so that we might have an excuse for bad behavior. James 3 describes the tongue as a fire. We need to recognize it as a fire that can’t simply be put out by a quick, “I’m just kidding.”
Even when someone is a close friend, words can be hurtful. I know how easy it can be to get caught up in the moment when we’re joking around with friends and end up saying something mean (inappropriate talk can just as easily fall into this category). We must be very cautious with the words that we say. I’d like to encourage each of us to keep from using humor as an excuse for saying things we shouldn’t. Instead, today find someone you know you may have been hard on in the past and say something positive and encouraging to them. Just don’t follow it up with, “I’m just kidding.”